BRONX, N.Y. — The senseless killing of 15-year old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz has galvanized the borough he called home into action, with the latest display of solidarity being a street corner rally Tuesday evening in front of the Latino Pastoral Action Center, where a crowd gathered to condemn the gang violence that culminated in the teen’s mistaken-identity murder.
“We did this intentionally because violence in our community is organic,” said Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera, the rally’s lead organizer.
“It’s black young people killing, Latino young people killing Latino young people, and we also have to speak out against that."
Police have arrested 12 suspects — reputed members of the Trinitarios gang — accused of taking part in the teen’s killing.
Guzman-Felix’s mother said she has full faith in the NYPD’s ongoing investigation, saying the department is working “good and fast."
“They kill my son,” Leandra Guzman told PIX11 News. “They have to pay."
At the rally, Bronx resident and retired educator Armando Pacheco said there is only one way to get through to kids like this before they head down the wrong path.
“You have to speak to them and you have to be with them at their level,” Pacheco said.
The night of June 20, Guzman-Feliz was chased into then dragged from a bodega and set upon by a gang of men armed knives and a machete. He suffered a lethal slash wound to his throat and tried to run to a nearby hospital but collapsed and died on the sidewalk.
The gang accused of mistaking the teen for a rival and ultimately killing him has been linked repeatedly to narcotics trafficking and federal prosecutors indicted dozens of gang members in racketeering cases earlier this decade.
Members of the Trinitarios also were blamed for the June 18 attack on a 14-year-old year boy in the Bronx. Two days before Guzman-Feliz was killed, gang members chased another teen, this time onto the Bronx River Parkway median where they repeatedly beat and stabbed the boy, who underwent emergency surgery and lost a kidney. Police said that case and the killing of Guzman-Feliz are linked.
Video had shown the teen entering the store and a man pointing toward the door, leading many viewers of the footage to believe that the teen was being kicked out. But the bodega’s owner told PIX11 he was not kicking the teen out. He said the ambulance was taking too long so they were pointing at the door to tell Guzman-Feliz that the hospital was only a few blocks away.
State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require bodegas and other small businesses to be safe havens for endangered children.